In a world where marketing gurus are paid millions to try and come up with new iconic products, there's a true, real-world lesson in branding illustrated by Triumph's Speed Triple. Within eight short years, starting with the T509, Triumph has created a cult of sorts around its bug-eyed naked and it seems to be a good seller, at least in Europe. When you add in the fact that back in '97, the year of the mould breaking T509's launch, the very resurrection of the Triumph brand still raised quite a few eyebrows, so the current "cool tool" status of the Speed Triple is one hell of an achievement.
So then, for the fifth remake in the Speed's history, Triumph continues to dig that "bad boy" line that has endeared the Speed Triple to hard-core racer types and urban Streetfighters alike. In 1997, twin, bug-like headlights were all the rage with streetfighter builders, so why not take on the current street trend towards short and stubby tails and high-level silencers? Previous Speed models had a hint of classic Brit in their tail sections but this one turns it all upside down with its "I-mean-business", short-barrel revolver tail.
I have to admit, it's striking. Like it or not, just like with the controversial twin headlights in 1997, it's hard now to be indifferent about the Speed's tail. It just seems to end way too early! The new high-level twin silencers accentuate said stubbiness and thank goodness, designers decided not to follow the under the tail trend, so the seat is kind of flat.
Other redesigned areas are the classy, sculpted gas tank and the minimalist side panels which have much sharper and more up-to-date lines. Compared to the solutions for odds and ends in previous Speed models, this one looks super sorted. Nice alloy shrouds allow the radiator to blend in and there's a new, way-cool instrument panel, not to mention the impressive USD fork with its radial calipers and tasty five-spoke wheels.
"Letting revs drop by using the higher gears, it's just uncanny how the Speed drives from as low as 1500 revs."
The original T509 might have been born out of simply stripping down a Daytona but this one shows a serious design effort that is dedicated solely to this model. As strikingly new as the Speed looks, the twin oval tube frame remains very much the same; no vital dimensions have changed save for one, very important dimension.
That dimension is piston stroke, which grows from 65mm to 71.4mm thus bumping displacement up to 1050 cc and horsepower to 129.8 from the claimed 120 of the previous model. Max torque gets a nice hike too, up to 78 *claimed* foot pounds.
This should be good news to torque addicts, whether they're canyon-carving squids or urban hooligans. With valve and head dimensions remaining the same, a bigger bore means higher flow velocity and that usually translates into higher torque further down the rev range. I got a chance to try out the new Speed Ten-five-O at a recent Triumph track day and used the first warm-up laps to put the Speed's torque prowess to the test. The previous model had already made a name for itself with mean torque but the 1050 goes one better. Letting revs drop by using the higher gears, it's just uncanny how the Speed drives from as low as 1500 revs. The rev counter needle is hardly getting off the peg and this is just half of the story.
Try to push a sporty twin below 2000 RPM and you'll get drive but some serious thudding and shaking will accompany it. This 1050 triple though, drives on in velvety fashion. I can understand how an extra cylinder smoothes things out but how come it works better at negligible revs than any four-cylinder motor I can think of? Is it the 120-degree spacing between crankpins? Kudos to Triumph for getting the low rev range so sorted.
Pressing on, it just gets better. The prior model hit the fat of the power band at around 4000 RPM but the new one supplies 90% of your max torque by 3500 RPMs (according to some published dyno graphs in the Italian press). As I pick up speed with the Speed around the track, this "any-revs-work" flexibility from the engine lets me concentrate on lines and handling. The Speed is no lightweight, but as always happens with high and wide bars, it's quite easy to throw the 1050 around on this tight, mostly second-gear turns track.
It's only in the rather tight esses that you feel the Speed's heft, on par with a Z1000 but slightly porkier than a Tuono or Monster S4R. On the other hand, mid-turn stability is really good, letting me dial in a few extra degrees of lean angle with each lap. Initially the Speed feels rather stiff and tight on its suspenders. The seat seems to be thinner, the shock and fork are more heavily sprung, but as I lower my lap times and start braking later, it turns out that the settings of the impressive new fork are very street oriented to say the least.
"This thing's got an air of authenticity about it."
With not that much weight loading the front, it might be a good compromise for street riding but while braking from 130mph to 50mph at the end of the straight, it just dives too much. Luckily, Triumph considers the Speed as a serious sporting tool and the bike is equipped with a full house of suspension adjustments: pre-load, compression and rebound at both ends. After my first track session, knowing that I am going to have this bike for the whole day, I dial in some more pre-load.
By now it's mid-day, and scorching hot out there; time for a break. I take a stroll through the paddock of this Triumph track day, and it's not hard to notice the amount of Speed Triple owners present, ready to take on the track. In Italy, land of Ducati and MV, it's quite surprising to see the level of following that this bike has and although many blokes are wearing retro-looking leather jackets that fit their modified Speeds to a T, none looks like a poseur.
PAGE 2 It's time for another stint. By now I am stretching the motor to the rev limiter at close to 10000 RPM, enjoying the very constant drive the big triple supplies. There are no hikes or spikes to catch you here. The thing of it is that it's all a useless exercise at this facility. On such a slow track I end up out dragging more people by rolling on from 6-7000 RPM out of turns. Still, in the two short chutes, banging the thing against the rev limiter saves me a gear change and also fills the air with a glorious Triple howl.
By now my main problem is that the spacious ergos of the Speed also mean relatively low foot pegs, and this is limiting my cornering speeds. The extra fork pre-load has helped some but I am touching the feelers in the long hooked turns. Another issue is that as good as the radial calipers look, they are a bit lacking in outright power and feel and this is not a very demanding track on brakes, especially considering the Speed comes with braided lines. The culprit could be in the street-oriented pads, but it's not the first time I've noticed that radial calipers don't always equal braking prowess. But they are the hot ticket, you know. Fashion rules.
"This new 1050 Speed made me smile more than usual. It's really the crisp and soulful new 1050 mill that takes the center stage and this very track session's got me wanting a proper street ride on one."By now the tires are truly shagged and the mechanics fit "my" bike with a set of Metzler Racetecs in K2 compound, but these are real overkill. Expecting even higher cornering loads, I stiffen up front pre-load and damping at both directions, while leaving the well-behaving rear as is. Sure enough, I'm scraping the pegs even more but the extra grip lets me dial in more throttle sooner and in the esses I am lofting the front as I power on while changing lean sides. Fun, fun, fun: antics that would scare the hell out of you on a super-sport with clip-ons are just part of the game to play when you have such a commanding, wide handlebar. Just put on some higher aftermarket rearsets and stiffer fork springs, and you'll have a very nice track day bike to humiliate sport bike riders with.
Naked bikes always have a way of putting a smile on my face at track days. Be it their non-conformist approach to cornering, or the sheer fun of stuffing someone who's all crouched over his sporting tool into a turn while you are sitting bolt upright watching the scenery. But this new 1050 Speed made me smile more than usual. It's really the crisp and soulful new 1050 mill that takes the center stage and this very track session's got me wanting a proper street ride on one. That short new tailpiece will surely be a discussion item with MOridians, but whatever you think of it, this Speed is sharper and more fun than ever.
|Type||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder|
|Bore/Stroke||79 x 71.4mm|
|Fuel System||Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection|
|Ignition||Digital - inductive type - via electronic engine management system|
|Final Drive||X ring chain|
|Frame||Tubular, fabricated aluminium alloy perimeter|
|Swingarm||Single-sided, alumium alloy with eccentric chain adjuster|
|Front Wheel||Alloy 5-spoke, 17 x 3.5in|
|Rear Wheel||Alloy 5-spoke, 17 x 5.5in|
|Front Tyre||120/70 ZR 17|
|Rear Tyre||180/55 ZR 17|
|Front Suspension||45mm USD forks with dual rate springs and adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping|
|Rear Suspension||Monoshock with adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping|
|Front Brakes||Twin 320mm floating discs, 4 piston radial calipers|
|Rear Brakes||Single 220mm disc, 2 piston caliper|
|Width (Handlebars)||780mm (30.7in)|
|Seat Height||815mm (32.1in)|
|*Claimed* Weight (Dry)||189kg (416lbs)|
|Performance (Measured at crankshaft to DIN 70020)|
|*Claimed* Maximum Power||130PS (128bhp) at 9,100 rpm|
|*Claimed* Maximum Torque||105Nm (78ft.lbf) at 5,100 rpm|
|Jet Black, Neon Blue, Scorched Yellow|
|Price||£7,699.00 'on the road' retail|